Storage Soup

May 15 2012   8:27AM GMT

Confusion over storage consolidation

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

Storage consolidation seems to be a simple concept. If you reduce the number of storage systems, you benefit from fewer devices to manage, less space required, and less power/cooling demands. Yet there is confusion over exactly what the term storage consolidation refers to.

The confusion comes from some vendor messaging and what IT storage professionals actually view as storage consolidation. This leads to miscommunication and different sets of expectations about storage optimization projects.

For IT storage professionals, storage consolidation is about storage efficiency. A new storage system can be deployed to meet the aggregate performance and capacity demands to replace disparate storage systems. The simplest form of storage consolidation is to reduce the number of boxes on the floor. But storage consolidation does not mean one storage system for all purposes.

There are legitimate reasons why IT operations end up with multiple storage systems over time. While people claim this can be avoided through better management and planning, things just don’t work out that way. Multiple storage systems come about because:

• Projects that require more storage come with a budget to purchase new storage systems specifically for that project.
• IT operations consolidate because of acquisitions or mergers.
• New capacity demands require more storage, and it often makes sense to purchase additional systems instead of expanding existing storage systems. That’s because adding capacity to existing storage reduces the access density and overall performance. Also, the asset depreciation schedule for the existing storage system may make it impractical to reset the schedule with an addition.

The “single box for everything” concept is not practical. From an economic standpoint, not all data has equal value and less valuable data can be stored on less expensive, lower-performing storage. The economics of storing data includes the cost of the storage system and the operational costs for protecting and migrating data. The data typically has a lifespan that long outlives any storage system, and managing data over its lifespan is more important for the IT storage professional than the box currently in use. And storage systems are transient. They last a maximum of four or five years before they are replaced with the latest, greatest technology.

Tiered storage can lead to consolidation and enable storage efficiency. Using solid-state technology as a performance tier is a hot trend. Tiered storage allows for greater consolidation by managing the variations in performance requirements, which is really an exploitation of the change in probability access of data over time. This allows the storage system to support a greater amount of consolidation in support of performance and capacity demands.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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